As previously stated, the events commemorating the 150th of Gettysburg spanned several weeks. The first week was full of events for the reenactors themselves and the second week was full of ticketed events for the public. On the first day of the ticketed events, the 4th of July, I went up with my friend Mel, who normally does history things with me, and it was hot but we had a blast.
We were unable to attend the second day of events. The 5th of July was that awkward Friday between a holiday and the weekend, and Mel hadn’t been able to take off work. I didn’t want to go up by myself so I stayed home and did homework all day. This was actually serendipitous because it turns out I needed that time to complete the assignments in a satisfactory manner. Getting a master’s is hard work. Uff-dah.
That brings us to Saturday, the 6th of July and day 3 of events. Mel still couldn’t go, so I took some other friends with me whom I have known since college. These friends had prepared by watching a portion of the movie Gettysburg and the relevant section of Ken Burns’ (best known?) documentary The Civil War. That’s a decent start, although the film is confusing if you’re not very familiar with the people. They all tend to look alike and I will be the first to admit that sometimes I still can’t keep everyone straight. (Although for an event like this, I’m not sure it actually matters … )
My self-educated friends and I drove up. If we had had a schedule, we would have been running behind but it worked out for us. We parked in a completely different location than where I had parked with Mel, and we by luck we were able to bypass the admissions tent. Score one for us.
Day 3 Schedule of events: (emphasis theirs)
8:30 am – Gates open
9:00 am – Confederate Generals hold a War meeting (Tent 1)
9:30 am – The inside story of the “Civil War spies” (Tent 2)
10:00 am – General Longstreet discusses his battle plans (Tent 1)
11:00 am – Cavalry Battle: We Have No Time: Stuart Arrives on the Battlefield
– Live Mortar Fire Demonstration (follows battle)
12:30 pm – Patrick Falci talks about the making of the movie “Gettsburg” (Tent 1)
1:00 pm – Battle: “Hold the Line” – Gallant Rally at the Klingle Farm
2:00 pm – The Ladies of the Dixie Rose Relief – the hardships of the civilians (Tent 1)
2:30 pm – ALHES presents the journey to becoming a “Living Historian” (Tent 2)
3:00 pm – Ghostly Encounters of Gettysburg with Johlene Riley and Chris Taylor (Tent 1)
3:30 pm – US Generals discuss the successes of the day (Tent 2)
4:00 pm – Matthew Brady tells the story of “Civil War Photography” (Tent 1)
5:00 pm – General Hancock talks about his day at Gettysburg (Tent 2)
6:00 pm – Battle: “Thundering Hell” Defending East Cemetery Hill”
7:00 pm – A Union Drummer boy and a Confederate Spy (Tent 1)
8:00 pm – Reenactor’s Camp Dance with the 2nd South Carolina String Band (Tent 2)
We spent most of our time browsing through the sutlers’ tents (I think). The day was, if possible, even hotter than it had been on the 4th, so we were trying to find the balance between shade of the tents versus no air circulation in the tents. I was more prepared this time and had frozen 3 bottles of water the night before, so we weren’t going to get heat sickness this day. However, this did give me more appreciation for what the soldiers themselves had to endure because not only were they wearing wool uniforms, they were carrying upwards of 50lbs of stuff. So that would be like dressing for winter and hauling a third grader through the heat of the summer. When framed like that, I probably shouldn’t complain about the heat, AND I had the luxury of ice water … but it was still hot.
Somewhere between the living history Generals and the sutlers were other living history tents with things like medicine, womens’ fashions, and the Christian Commission. Being good Domers, we naturally had to speak with the representatives of the United States Christian Commission. They had reprinted many of the pamphlets and manuals from back in the day and explained the purpose of each one. They talked about the charitable work their Commission did, and how they differed from the Sanitary Commission, the Red Cross precursor, and other charitable organizations of the time. Interestingly, the Christian Commission was quite progressive in its views of equality and whom they admitted.
Each member at the table also had reproductions of the pin each member wore, which became one of their trademarks. Originally founded to support the spiritual needs of the soldiers, the Commission quickly began addressing temporal needs as well, such as providing writing stations and distributing supplies. They worked with the Sanitary Commission to provide medical services. It was the brainchild of concerned members of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and brought a lot of prestige to the YMCA afterwards. The Christian Commission’s wiki page has some more useful information.
[I forgot this part in my last post: Mel and I had stopped to talk to a woman with a quilt apparatus who was a representative of the Sanitary Commission(?) and explained the quilts on display. She also talked about quilting as her hobby, the different patterns of the era and the processes of her Commission. She had some period quilts on display, which were nice to look at and see the patterns. Most were simple, the need for quilts overcoming the desire for fancy stitchwork. I don’t remember how she said she had gotten into living history, but quilting had come first and she had built her persona around her talents. Maybe her husband/kids had dragged her along into the hobby? That is a common occurrence.]
In a similar vein, after the Christian Commission’s tent we stopped to talk with some representatives from the National Civil War Chaplains Museum. He-friend, who works for a religious organization, had a very in-depth discussion with one of the representatives there, while She-friend was asking about the printing process and typeface of the reproduction booklets on display (She-friend works in design). Being a good Domer, I had to ask if Father Corby was about. Surprisingly, he was, but he was somewhere in the town. I would have liked to get a picture with him because Father Corby’s general absolution at Gettysburg is as quintessential to the battle mythology as Pickett’s Charge.
[Speaking of Father Corby: The weekend previous, the Notre Dame Club of Gettysburg had hosted a special mass commemorating the anniversary. I couldn’t attend, but it looks like it was a nice event. The official Notre Dame press release is here.]
From the brochure from the Civil War Chaplains booth:
Museum Info: This museum and research center is unique in that there is no other comparable entity dedicated solely to the memory of chaplains, priests, and rabbis who served during the Civil War.
Civil War chaplains performed a myriad of duties for their soldiers. They preached, acted as personal counselors, visited the sick, wrote letters for and to soldiers, sought supplies, and also acted as bulwarks against the usual vices associated with camp life. In a few cases, some chaplains also took up arms and joined in the fray of battle.
The men and women manning this booth were all very kind. The market for this subject is rather niche, but it was nice to see this little-known area had a physical museum, which is located in Lynchburg, VA. If I’m ever down that way, I’ll be sure to stop in. It looks really interesting.
Also that day, my friends and I took a breather outside Activity Tent 1, where we heard the Ladies of the Dixie Rose Relief Society talk about civilian life during the war. She-friend expressed interest in this talk, and it was a good chance to sit, refresh sunscreen again (including some Neutrogena SPF 100 stuff), and locate some icees and lemonade.
The ladies spoke from the Southern perspective of civilian life and I remember thinking it was vaguely interesting. Usually I shy away from the feminine aspects because I find them boring. Between learning command strategy and the 12 layers of a woman’s dress, I’d rather learn command strategy. Anyway, the Dixie ladies spoke of the hardships they had to endure as resources became scarcer in the south. They had several strategies for “refreshing” dresses – adding ribbon or changing a hemline to make a “new” dress because there was no fabric to make a new dress from scratch. There was also something about the rebel flag being sewn into their petticoats. When they lifted their top skirts and red flashed underneath, there was some sort of significance there. What the significance is, I don’t remember, and Google search has failed me. Perhaps it was some sort of secret signal?
This was also the first first time I heard talk of the town after the battle. Remember a few posts back, covering the Gettysburg Address, I had said that I had never thought about the town in the time between the Battle and and Lincoln’s Address, and a comic book of all things raised this issue? I might have lied a little. The Ladies of the Dixie Rose Society actually talked about having to clean up afterwards; how between them, both armies left a total of maybe 6 doctors to deal with the thousands of sick and wounded; how they said the cloud of flies and carrion birds could be seen as far away as Baltimore; how townsfolk left to escape the unbearable stench. This is all information I promptly forgot until I saw the comic at SPX.
So that was actually more interesting than I had expected and I sort of learned something. I’ll try not to be so hasty in writing off domestic things as “boring” in the future.
Most importantly, so far as the day itself was concerned, was the reenactment. Woo! If you refer to the schedule of the day, this was the 1pm battle depicting the gallant rally at the Klingle Farm, whatever that is. This battle was a little difficult because the action started out of sight of most of the spectators. In the wide shots, the action began far to the right, behind the trees. Many intrepid spectators, myself included, saw no reason why we shouldn’t get closer to watch. Unfortunately, we were sent back to a safe distance. Cavalry riders, who should have been in the action, rode a perimeter to ensure stupid spectators wouldn’t get hurt. But you know what? I have no regrets. #YOLO.
Day 3 Marching out
Day 3 Battle
Apologies for the scattered chronology of this post. I never wrote anything down so this is all from memory. It would have been smarter to type this in a word processor and edit it but meh.
My friends weren’t quite as excited about the whole marching out or battle thing as I was. I would cry but I’m used to it by now.
We took a small detour through town because I wanted to say hi to Reverend Rene. He had set up shop outside of the wax museum/gift shop but he personally wasn’t there. That was my first time in Gettysburg NOT seeing him and I was really disappointed.
Now fast forward to the end of day. There was a field mass at about 5pm at the St Francis Xavier center north of the town, presided by His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan. The entrance procession was kind of cool because there were some reenactors flanking a regiment of Knights of Columbus with their floofy hats. I don’t remember the homily, but Cardinal Dolan did mention Father Corby. Score for us again.
As we navigated our way through the parking lot, we saw a car from North Dakota.
In conclusion: The event was a lot of fun and, I hope, educational for some. There was so much going on that it took a couple of days to decompress. Gettysburg town and Adams County had been preparing for this for years, and I think their preparation paid off. Freshly paved sidewalks and roads, new lights installed at the intersection of Baltimore Ave and Steinwehr Ave, new street lights – the town looked fantastic and I think it held up to the volume well. Also, mad props to the reenactors/living historians themselves. I mean, this is what they live for, and it was obvious they were in their element. It was also nice to see so many people there who saw the commemoration as something worth bringing the kids to. As I keep saying, history is important and I’ll support whatever it takes to get people interested.
Up next ….